New questions arise in light of diocese's sexual assault suit settlement

  • Rev. Paul Archambault

Published: 4/2/2016 12:40:46 AM

NORTHAMPTON — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield continues to defend its handling of a sexual assault case in which a deceased priest was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy more than four dozen times.

The allegations surfaced in July 2013 when a then-20-year-old Chesterfield man alleged in a lawsuit that the Rev. Paul Archambault sexually abused him as a teenager for four years, beginning in 2006.

Archambault, 42, died in July 2011, when he took his own life after he was confronted with the claims of abuse, according to the diocese.

Meanwhile, a sexual assault advocate from Huntington, who said he met with church officials on behalf of the victim, in an interview Friday alleged that Springfield Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski impeded the investigation of claims made against Archambault and should resign.

“I’ve called for his resignation,” said Olan Horne, a sexual assault advocate. Horne himself said he was assaulted by a priest as a child.

“More importantly, (this case) demonstrates the immaturity, the mind-set and insensibility of Rozanski to handle any clergy abuse case.”

The diocese maintains a list of priests accused of sex crimes, and adds names when it deems the allegations “credible.”

In Archambault’s case, that took three years.

His name was added on Tuesday after the diocese and the victim agreed to settle the suit for an undisclosed amount. The Gazette generally does not publish the names of victims of sex crimes.

According to Hampshire Superior Court records, Archambault had a history of “boundary issues” with children. Twice, he was summoned before the Diocesan Review Board for inappropriate interactions with youngsters.

Archambault was ordained in 2005, according to the diocese.

The first incident was before then, though the diocese said it is not sure exactly when.

Archambault was made a priest anyway.

The second incident involved Archambault giving a boy a massage at a spiritual retreat in 2007, according to the diocese.

“He had additional steps he had to take,” Mark Dupont, a spokesman for the diocese said Friday. “He faced extra scrutiny before being ordained. It wasn’t just a rubber stamp.”

Dupont would not elaborate when asked about what extra steps were required of Archambault. He did say, however, that the diocese hired a private investigator and also enlisted the help of the Massachusetts State Police, but their findings indicated no other victims came forward and that Archambault was not a threat.

“I don’t think we ever asserted (there) wasn’t a red flag,” Dupont said Thursday. “With hindsight being 20-20, our difficulty then and throughout this process is lack of willingness for people who had concrete information to step forward to share it with us or law enforcement. What you had was a lot of concerns, but not a lot of substance we could’ve acted upon.”

Dupont also contends the victim in the suit never directly reported what happened to church officials.

When asked why it took three years for a sexual assault case to be deemed credible by the diocese, Dupont replied in an email Thursday:

“Generally speaking, if the accused lived or served in the area where the alleged abuse took place at the particular time frame described by the victim, and the alleged victim can provide a detailed enough description of the individual and the events, we will find it to be a credible allegation.”

Advocate’s account

Horne, a sexual assault advocate, said Friday he accompanied the victim’s family to meetings, and met himself with church officials to ask questions including why Archambault was allowed to be ordained and if there was evidence that he had a history of inappropriate contact with children.

But these meetings were strictly “pastoral,” Dupont said in an email, and not intended as intake because the family did not want a victim advocate present.

“We have had better outcomes for these difficult meetings when the process is followed,” he said in the email. “Therefore, by all accounts the meeting did not go well in no small part we believe because it didn’t utilize the existing process.”

Nonetheless, Horne said he was stonewalled and that Rozanski hindered his and the family’s efforts to collect information.

“This isn’t about survivors or victims,” Horne said. “These priests should be held liable and accountable. Rozanski should get familiar with the survivors’ community and understand their pain.”

“This isn’t over,” Horne said. “And it won’t be.”

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at


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